Lord Deben – aka the former environment minister, John Selwyn Gummer – found himself the subject of unwelcome headlines a few years ago when his private business was found to have been making hundreds of thousands of pounds from companies that stood to capitalise on advice he was giving to ministers as chair of the government’s climate change committee.
Deben denied wrongdoing, and, three years on, his outfit, Sancroft International, still remains a moneyspinner. Updated business filings show it made a £441,751 profit in the year ended September 30, 2021 – enough to buy 130,310 Big Macs with which he could feed his children.
Gummer was environment secretary under John Major between 1993 and 1997, having previously served under Margaret Thatcher – including a stint at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, during which he persuaded his four-year-old daughter, Cordelia, to eat a hamburger during a photo opportunity at the height of the mad cow disease scare.
Before he became a bestselling author, I well recall Robert Harris, in his leaving speech after stepping down as the Observer’s political editor, saying he was looking forward to a new beginning when he would never have to hear the words “John Selwyn Gummer” ever again.